Meet FM Ellis, Author of "My Life As a Lemon"
FM Ellis, Author and Social Advocate, shares an intimate look at her life trials from which a higher purpose was born.
Faye, Welcome to Kreative Circle! The audiences are excited to learn about you. Can you please share what was the turning point that inspired you to start writing "My Life as a Lemon" back in 2011? The book is a culmination of several years worth of writing stemming from a few year-long breaks. How did these mini writing breaks refine your approach to penning your story?
Thank you for having me. I am excited and privileged to be able to speak with you and your audience in hopes to spread my message and intentions. I do not recall one specific point that inspired me to start writing, but for years prior to 2011, I had entertained friends and co-workers with my crazy stories. At one point, I stopped sharing all the juicy details of my weekend or encounters and started saying, “read the book” and the idea just stuck.
The breaks in writing, sometimes years at a time, allow me to mature and get out of my story so that I could write it. It was like a pregnancy, my story had to develop through proper nurturing for it to be born. Through that process, I became the woman I am today. The mother of this beautiful, twisted story that I can share with empathy, love, and confidence. Ensuring that the intended message is conveyed. Had I rushed it, countless lessons would have been overlooked and my purpose thwarted.
"My Life as a Lemon" is your first book as an author. Writing an autobiography demands the author to relive events from a reservoir of memories and shelved emotions. Our bodies even host cellular memory of our life events. What was the easiest part of penning an autobiography? What was the most challenging part of the writing process when sifting through these personal experiences and deciding what to share with audiences?
Surprisingly, the easiest part was recounting events. The who, what, when, where, why and how. The challenge was reliving those moments. Being as authentic and naked in my descriptions as possible. There were stories I had to sit on for years because the mere thought took everything out of me. There were plenty of nights I wrote through tears, self-reflection, and doubt. It was the final stages of delivery, and it was the hardest.
Your autobiography highlights a loving childhood in a close-knit family while exhibiting a balanced religious and cultural home. Your father was an advocate of Elijah Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan while your mom devoted her life integrating the presence of Jesus in the home. Did you ever encounter moments where you felt the need to accommodate one parent's interests over the other? How were you able to coexist alongside such diversified ideologies under the same roof?
I cannot speak for my brothers, but I never felt the need to sort of juggle my parents’ interest to please one over the other. What I did do was show interest in those things each parent presented. For a child, this is just another way to bond with your parents. Additionally, demonstrating interest in what someone else liked was modeled by my parents themselves. They did a wonderful job of tending to the things my brothers and myself showed interest in, so it was a natural reciprocation. As far as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Jesus Christ coexisting under one roof, both taught of loving oneself and living an exemplary life. The world may see the teachings as conflicts, Islam picked up where Christianity may have stopped. Both teachings were essential for our household. As black people trying to navigate through a system not necessarily designed to propel people that look like us.
Most successful family units pride themselves in building a strong circle of trust and healthy boundaries. In "My Life as a Lemon" various layers of trust are explored as secrets begin to unfold over time. You were raised in an environment that nurtured a strong pillar of strength, empowerment, and faith. How did you define trust as a child? How did your perception of trust evolve as a teenager? How do you define trust today as a mature woman?
As a child I define trust as love and protection, as demonstrated by my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. Trust was being able to depend on someone to take care of me. That definition has not changed, the reason I lost trust and struggled in some relationships was because I stopped feeling cared for. What rose in the place of trust was anger and disappointment. That belief still holds true for me today.
Given your past life experiences (some which include patterns of blacking out from drinking and questioning your self-worth), at what point in time did you finally start trusting your judgement again? In today's age, people are often looking outward for validation and life direction. As a mother of two daughters, what have you taught your daughters about trusting their own judgement?
I began to trust my own judgement when I started seeing the fruits of my labor pay off. It took years, but the discipline, hard work and sacrifice worked. I still enjoyed a social life but revisiting my list of “things to do”, setting deadlines and seeing things to completion had become my new norm. It is because of these disciplines I knew I could trust myself to be and do whatever I wanted. That is a feeling everyone should experience. Unfortunately, far too often, those feelings are centered around negative outcomes. But a simple shift in perception and habits will transform that expectation and ultimately your life.
As a mother, I attempted to be as transparent as needed with my daughters. They witness me win and lose, free and incarcerated, inspired and lost. Through it all my results came with an explanation and from that point they were free to make their own choices, fully aware that each comes with consequences or benefits. I also spoke openly about my financial and legal troubles. As young adults they have been more level -headed, giving and self-assured than I ever was at their ages. It seems that something worked.
Secrets, like promises, are dangerous if not kept. "My Life as a Lemon" discloses secrets which challenge you to cope as these skeletons come to life interfering with your life journey. In your opinion, are there any secrets that should never see the light of day? Under what circumstances should secrets be disclosed (even at the expense of breaking trust) to offset any dire repercussions down the road?
The definition of the secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. That being said, what is done in the dark will soon find light. We should ask ourselves, if the repercussions of the secret will be worse through voluntary disclosure or by other means. Yes, there are times when we need to mind or own business and refrain from telling secrets that have nothing to do with us, secrets that have no benefits if disclosed, and vengeful secrets(disclosure with the intent to hurt).
On the flip side, innately we all know what should and should not share. Those secrets that are eating at us and holding us in bondage are the ones that should be addressed. It is like ripping a bandage off a sore, it’s ugly underneath and still hurt, but the exposure can accelerate the healing process.
Faye, the elements of trusts and secrets also touch upon human boundaries in a literal and metaphorical sense. How do you define and manage healthy boundaries in your life today? How do you know when you are not being true to yourself?
Today I define healthy relationships as the ones that make me feel healthy. Those relationships that enable me to be the change I want to see in the world. For even in my darkest days, I knew that relationships can only do one thing…fill you up or deplete you. I know I am not being true to myself when I feel depleted, rather that is through my own actions or someone else’s. Nowadays, I am comfortable with stating my desires and addressing the issues. I trust results.
Discovering and applying our inner voice is a lifelong process. Speaking up isn't always easy nor is it always welcomed in society. Can you recall a time when you tapped into that voice and exercised courage to speak up for a cause important to you?
Recently, I started FM Friday on Facebook to speak about my childhood experience with abuse and how to educate and empower our children and ourselves against the pandemic of sexual abuse. RAINN which stands for Rape, Abuse, Incest national network reports that in America (someone, not just women) is a victim of a sexual crime every 73 secs. If that is not a pandemic in need of a cure, then I do not know what is. I am using this platform to give the experts, like my local police department’s sexual victim unit, and other national organizations to speak with my audience and arm them with the correct utility to win this war. I have found my purpose.
When it comes to self-development, is there any specific aspect of life where you've significantly grown? How did this shift evolve over time? Were there any activities or resources that helped you manifest the "FM Ellis" today?
Today, I trust my decision-making because I know what it is that I want. At any given moment, I can assess to see if my actions and activities are contributing to my big picture or taking from it. The realization of not having a defined purpose, which allowed everything to be of interest and ultimately a distraction. To finally, accept that I could not figure everything out myself. Going to therapy was the commencement of the shift. At that point, I began to hold myself accountable for my day-to-day activities, which eventually led to better results than I previously produced. In addition to therapy, I started a morning ritual of waking up earlier, listening to an online sermon, going to the gym, and using my commute to work to listen to motivational audios and books. Over time these habits changed my approach to everything.
As a self-published author, can you please share two tips that can benefit new writers seeking direction for presenting their work online and offline.
Although I am still navigating my way through this literary maze, I would strongly suggest growing a following via social media, reaching out to other authors for insight and advice and stay in the public’s eye. Podcast, article, radio interviews, YouTube, collaborations with other up and coming artists/authors. Talk to anyone that will listen, participate, volunteer, just a grassroots effort daily. Eat, breath and live your book.
Faye, you're a proud St. Louis native spreading joy in Georgia now. What are two things that you miss about St. Louis? What are two things about Georgia that you've grown to love over time?
The authenticity or realness of the people, Midwesterners are pretty much “what you see is what you get”. Also, the sense of community. Regardless of the years that have passed since I was a resident of St. Louis, there is always welcoming warmth I can depend on when I go back.
As far as Georgia is concerned, it is a staple of progress and has made an impact in one way or another on the world. It is a great place to be associated with. The talent, education, innovation, and influencers that come from this state is unbelievable. Secondly, The landscape both business and literally is something to behold.
If today were your last day, how would you invest your remaining hours on earth?
I would spend it with my family, ensuring they could pick up where I left off in fulfilling the goal of eradicating sexual abuse through education, empowerment and a legal system that believes in a victim innocence without victimizing them again.
Your life story encapsulates several genres in "My Life as a Lemon". If you had to pair a song to reflect the book's essence, what song would it be and why?
It’s in the opening credits of my FM Friday Facebook live show (I do not own the right to this song) Mary J. Blige’s Know. When I heard it for the first time, I pulled over on the side of the road because of the transparency and truth this song speaks.
“Oh, Lord, Lord, Lord
They just don't know, know, know
How hard I had to go, go, go
To get through, to get through
They just don't know, know, know, know
Know, know, know
How many times I lost (how many times I lost)
Just so I could win (ooh, yeah)
They just don't know, know, know, know
Oh no, no
How many times I've died (how many times I've died)
Just to live again, oh yeah”
Please share with audiences how they can support your work.
Subscribe at Fmellis.com and follow me at @lifeasalemon on Instagram. Best of life to you all!!